Affordable 5G smartphones: Is it wise to buy them now or choose 4G alternatives?

Affordable 5G smartphones: Is it wise to buy them now or choose 4G alternatives?

They say that don’t buy any technology now that thrives on promises made for the future. I recently reviewed the Poco M3 Pro 5G and arrived at a puzzling conclusion after using it for 10 days. Poco has done a great job packaging all the right components to hit that sweet starting price of Rs 13,999 for a 5G phone. However, if you remove 5G from the equation, the M3 Pro is simply a sub-par smartphone that can barely keep up with its 4G competitors. Also Read - Amazon Mobile Savings Days 2022: Up to 40 percent off on top-selling smartphones, accessories, more

That brings us to the question: Are cheap 5G smartphones worth their asking prices in 2021? Similar to the Poco M3 Pro 5G, there’s a bunch of new 5G smartphones coming at rock-bottom prices from Realme, Xiaomi and Motorola. All these phones demand a substantial amount despite claiming to be the cheapest 5G phones. Also Read - Realme 9 5G, Realme 9 SE 5G to go on first sale today in India at 12 PM on Flipkart

Cheap 5G phones: What’s the issue?

So far, we have seen and used a few affordable 5G smartphones. The Poco M3 Pro 5G is the most recent one while the Realme 8 5G and Narzo 30 Pro 5G have been around democratising 5G for a few months now. With all these phones, the most peculiar observation has been regarding the user experience. Also Read - Realme Narzo 50A Prime confirmed to launch on March 22, likely to pack a 5,000mAh battery

Image: Poco M3 Pro

In comparison to the 4G alternatives, the 5G versions bring a lot of compromises. Take a look at the Poco M3 Pro as an example, which is essentially a dolled-up Redmi Note 10 5G. While on-paper specifications seem great, the actual user experience lags behind the 4G Redmi Note 10. The display is dull, the cameras are incapable, and the battery life isn’t great. However, for a phone that supports 5G, the deal seems tremendous, given the component costs in 2021.

Affordable 5G smartphones: Is it wise to buy them now or choose 4G alternatives?

It’s similar for the Realme 8 5G and Realme Narzo 30 Pro 5G. These phones may have great specs on paper the user experience is far from what their 4G counterparts can offer at the moment.

For the price of a 6GB RAM version of Poco M3 Pro 5G, you can get yourself a base version of the Redmi Note 10 Pro, which is a far superior phone by all means, It’s got a 120Hz AMOLED display, much better battery life, far superior camera performance and equally fast performance.

5G still seems like a distant dream

Most telecom operators in India have only started to do filed tests of 5G equipment and the TRAI is yet to allot spectrum for the technology. Hence, it is safe to say that even at the earliest, 5G connectivity is at least 3-4 years away. Moreover, a proper and practical rollout could take longer, as was the case with 4G technology. While the first 4G networks popped up in 2013, it was not until 2017 that Jio was able to enable fast 4G LTE network across a majority of the country.

Image: Realme 8 5G

Let’s say you reside in a metropolitan city and the earliest you can experience 5G will be around 2024. If you buy a Poco M3 Pro 5G or a Realme 8 5G now in anticipation of 5G arriving three years later, will you be using that phone by then? A Redmi Note 7 from two years ago might be unusable for most users now; imagine what a cheaply built Poco M3 Pro will be like in 2024?

It is most likely that you might end up buying a new smartphone way before that. Hence, getting the Poco M3 Pro now doesn’t make sense as you will be missing out on better smartphone experiences at the same prices from 4G smartphones.

What to do then?

At this moment, we suggest it is better to stay clear of affordable 5G smartphones. In fact, most smartphones supporting 5G that sell for less than Rs 20,000 aren’t likely to last well for over two years.

(A 4G-only Moto G60 is still a better choice over cheap 5G phones.)

Hence, it is ideal that you choose a 4G smartphone that focuses more on user experience with better components. Smartphones like the Redmi Note 10 Pro, Realme 8 Pro, Moto G60, and Galaxy A32 offer better overall value than 5G smartphones priced similarly.

However, in the premium smartphone space, 5G support comes as standard, and hence, you haven’t got any real choice. Phones using the Snapdragon 870 platform like Xiaomi Mi 11X, iQOO 7, OnePlus 9R, and Vivo X60 offer tremendous performance and can sustain a majority of that even after three years. Similarly, phones like the Realme X7 Max and Oppo Reno 5 Pro with their high-end Dimensity chips can also be great for future-proofing.

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